Header Ads

Dreamworld (2012)

Studio:  Hutson Ranch Media, Sneak Attack

Distributed By:  Traverse Media 

Blu-ray Release:  January 7, 2014

Director:  Ryan Darst

Rating:  Not Rated

Reviewed By James M. Dubs

I'll watch anything...including Dreamworld.

The filmmakers of Dreamworld call their style "American New Wave," a merging of French New Wave and improvised performance. The goal, according to their website here is to "adhere to the fusing together of miscreant attitude and the desire to boldly depict the beating heart in an effort to unify story and audience."

It's a lot of over-the-top, pretentious, feel good, rhetoric that a lot of independent filmmakers strive for. I know because I used to be one of those guys (unsuccessfully, mind you). Basically what they're saying in normal person talk - They want to make movies that feel real, genuine, and unrehearsed so the audience empathizes with the characters and feels a deeper connection than with typical movies. I know, why didn't they just say that in the first place? More importantly, and for the sake of this review, does Dreamworld deliver on this promise?

Film [Rating: 3.5]

Oliver (Whit Hertford, A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child), an aspiring animator, bombs a pitch to a Nickelodeon producer for his animated television series "Life After Myth." Deflated by his meeting and feeling mired by his "real job", Oliver meets up with BFF Jules (Nora Kirkpatrick) at a art exhibition to share his problems, and receive some helpful, grounded feedback.

A chance encounter with Lily (Mary Kate Wiles) - a spunky, energetic, free-spirited young woman - excites and energizes Oliver and seems to offer him a reprieve from his problems. The two immediately connect and Lily's energy is so intoxicating that she convinces Oliver to follow his dream, quit his job, and hit the road in pursuit of his fantasy career with Pixar Animation Studios. Despite receiving warnings from Jules, Oliver packs up and hits the road with Lily to Northern California. As they head up the coast, Lily finds new ways to push Oliver out of his comfort zone and challenge him to be better. However it doesn't take long for the fantasy to unravel and before long certain truths are revealed about both Oliver and Lily putting their flash-pan romance in jeopardy.

The film also co-stars Matt Jones, best known as Jessie Pinkman's burnout buddy in Breaking Bad, Johnny Pemberton, and Matt Bush.

In the end I found the movie to be good, not great. But let's be frank, this kind of movie doesn't speak to me on a personal level. And I think it's because I'm too old.

Or should I say too experienced? Look I'm no old-fart, but the character of Oliver is so relate-able that he represents a time frame in many of our lives. For me, I was Oliver in many regards between the years 1996-2006 and I'm not interested in watching someone come to certain realizations that I discovered years ago.  In short: been there, done that.

On the other hand, hipsters, freaks, geeks, nerds, fringe dwellers, romantics, the down-trodden, or people born after 1986 may feel differently. To start, the writing is solid and natural. Performances are very good all around especially by Hertford. Whit Hertford, for all intensive purposes, is not your typical leading man. He's short, awkward, and he's not the poster child for "the guy who gets the girl." Naturally, that's what makes him the ideal talent for this kind of movie and story. You can't help but root for Oliver. I believe the aforementioned group may rally around the character of Oliver and this kind of movie as a new standard for excellence. The overall vibe (aided by a strong musical score) feels vibrant, fresh, young, independent, hip... You get the point.

Lastly, the one thing that pleasantly surprised me was that there were no grandiose transformations by the film's end. Without giving away too much, the film succeeds in getting our characters to a final point very natural to real life. In that aspect, it succeeds 100% on the promise to make a film that feels more real than typical Hollywood melodrama. So in some regards I did connect with Dreamworld, even though I didn't fall in love with it. Fortunately for the filmmakers, I have little doubt they will succeed in "unifying story and audience" more often than fail.

Video [Rating: 3]

A lot of inexperienced independent filmmakers use the term cinéma vérité to mask the fact that they are terrible cinematographers. Sometimes grainy, under-lit cinematography is not a stylistic choice but the sign of an amateur videographer. In the case of this production, although the image lends itself to a low-budget, independent quality, for the most part I believe there is a skilled hand behind the camera making the most of limited resources. It's a far from perfect image, sourcing from a high-definition master source, but even if the low lit scenes are a product of guerilla style, low-budget filmmaking, I'm willing to give the production team a pass because the style fits with the overall context of their narrative. This film doesn't look like Gone With The Wind, but the filmmakers use their limitations as a stylistic strength for the film.

Audio [Rating: 2]

The blu-ray comes equipped with three audio options:

  1. Dolby Digital 5.1 - A pretty poor mix. Despite having a strong understanding of story and character, and a ready excuse with cinéma vérité for the video presentation, I can't find a reason to let them off the hook for the poor audio mix. At best the 5.1 mix is passable as long as you keep the audio controls at arm's length.  At worst, dialogue is hard to hear and I found myself either straining to hear or cranking up my receiver to understand what the characters were saying. I was caught off guard more than once as a scene shifted from a low level dialogue scene into a montage blaring the musical soundtrack at uncomfortable decibels.

  2. Dolby Digital 2.0 - Better than the 5.1 mix and the preferred means for watching the film.

  3. Filmmaker Commentary with director Ryan Darst and actor/writer Whit Hertford.

Extras [Rating: 3.5]

The value of the supplements will be on par with how you value the movie itself. Since I'm not in love with this movie, I wasn't in love with the extras. That aside, there's some interesting bits for those willing to get immersed in the fantasy of Dreamworld.

  1. Filmmaker Commentary With Director Ryan Darst & Actor/Writer Whit Hertford

  2. Oliver & Lily's Blog, Their Earliest Interactions: A neat little back story piece if you care.

  3. Artwork & Photos: Poster, Press and More From The Festival Circuit: Exactly what it sounds like.

  4. Human Hearts: Sneak Attack's Original Award-Winning Rougemantic Short Films: Three short films featuring many of the same talent and shot in the same style as the feature. A highlight of the extras.

  5. Original Life After Myth Sizzle Reel, Animated By Puny: More of the cartoon featured in the film.

Overall [Rating: 3]

Dreamworld is not my kind of movie. Admittedly, if it weren't my job to watch movies I would have succumb to the itch in my thumb to press the stop button on the remote. I will further admit that I'm glad I did not. Even though it took me some time to come around, I eventually did and by the film's conclusion I was glad that I took the road trip with Oliver and Lily. The filmmaker's mission statement is bold and even though I feel they fall just short of meeting their high expectations, that certainly doesn't take away from the heart and independent spirit in this decent little film. Not everyone will rally behind a small picture like Dreamworld, but for those who do, they will be rewarded greatly.

About the author: James Dubs is a father and husband who loves his family first and movies a close second. He believes every movie is worth watching once and, as a film fan and critic, believes that even the worst movies offer something in return. His mission is to watch anything and report without pretension. Follow James Dubs on Twitter and send him suggestions on movies you would like reviewed - popular, obscure, independent, etc. He'll watch anything for you.

No comments

Brought to you by Zergnet